Archbishop Resurrects Apparitions That Created Huge Controversy in Philippines
An archbishop in the Philippines is resurrecting a site of apparitions that has been the subject of controversy since the 1940s but also the source of what thousands have declared as miracles.
The archbishop, Most Reverend Ramon C. Arguelles, D.D., says that while there is no current plan to issue a formal pastoral letter in favor of apparitions claimed in his diocese of Lipa -- about an hour south of Manila -- he has organized a campaign to encourage devotion at the Carmelite convent where the Blessed Mother allegedly appeared to a nun starting in 1948.
He thus joins a bishop in Amsterdam who also revived an apparition that the Church had rejected there and if he issues a formal pastoral approval will also join bishops in Venezuela, Japan, Nicaragua, and Africa who have issued formal letters approving apparitions or encouraging devotions based on private revelation in the past twenty years.
Archbishop Arguelles Thursday told Spirit Daily that September 12 of this year has been set aside as the official kick-off, with "increased activity and devotion" and plans to place statues representing the Virgin of Lipa, as Our Lady of All Grace, in every diocese.
Asked when the apparitions themselves would be approved, Arguelles said, "I hope soon. We're not working on that now. But we are trying to increase the devotion. It will depend on how holy the pilgrims are."
It was on August 18, 1948, that a novice named Teresito Castillo claimed to see a beautiful woman who was dressed in white and emitted a lovely fragrance. "Do not fear, my daughter, He Who loves above all things has sent me," the apparition allegedly said.
It was the beginning of extraordinary claims. Soon the other sisters, watching Teresita in profound ecstasy, discarded their skepticism. Mary also favored the prioress, Mother Cecilia, with interior locutions, and nuns at Lipa witnessed the miraculous materialization of rose petals.
For three months Teresita continued to experience a sweet, unearthly, and motherly presence, speaking with the Virgin near a vine in the garden -- which will be a focus of upcoming pilgrimages.
Like Lucia of Fatima, it is asserted that Teresita was administered Holy Communion by an angel and as at Fatima, the sun is said to have mysteriously pulsed. There were alleged healings and the sighting of a strange blue bird.
Soon the entire convent, then the city, then the archipelago were caught up in the phenomena. Hundreds of thousands gathered near the convent. Rose petals allegedly fell from the sky, many with likenesses of holy figures on them. It was said that the petals fell on a bishop who had visited the convent with the intent of declaring it a "hoax."
Indeed, the apparitions were to encounter an extremely rocky road as the formal Church set about quashing the apparition, ordering the burning of any diaries associated with Teresita, disposal of rose petals, and destruction of the statue associated with the events. Boxes of letters and other records were likewise destroyed. And the then-bishop, who approved of Lipa after his personal encounter with the rose petals, was stripped of his administrative powers in the early 1950s, ostensibly for "poor accounting practices," his equally favorable auxiliary bishop banished to another diocese.
Meanwhile, Mother Cecilia was transferred to a distant convent and given the chores of a scullery maid.
It was claimed that Church interrogators tried to intimidate Teresita into signing a false confession, a statement saying the apparitions were a fabrication intended to bring her person attention.
The repression is said to have been orchestrated by the papal nuncio, at whose direction a committee of Filipino bishops convened, hastily concluding that the Lipa events were not of a supernatural character.
While the committee of bishops appeared unanimous in their conclusion that Lipa was fraudulent, several of them confessed before they died that they too had been coerced, signing the negative "findings" only under threat of excommunication.
"There were painful experiences, and we do not plan to unearth them," says Archbishop Arguelles now. "We do not look to 'approve' an apparition so much as 'recognize' it. The Blessed Mother does not need us to approve it. Recognition of events will depend on the atmosphere of prayer. The other bishops are happy with this, and very Marian. The whole diocese has benefited from it. There are already wonderful things happening there. In the 1990s, the apparition saw a resurgence. Many bishops have agreed on my suggestion. They are beginning to accept the devotion. On September 12 we will have a big prayer gathering involving several bishops and prayer for the whole world."
Archbishop Arguelles, who has cited the dangers in the Philippines from terrorism, said he expects to suffer as a result of his decision to revive Lipa and has asked for prayers. He promotes Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace, a title that has likewise stirred controversy.
The appearance of the apparitions to Teresita remain baffling in many regards and had been preceded by a series of alleged demonic attacks in which the nun encountered strange knocks on her door, a foul odor, and a hoarse voice. As a calling card, the evil spirit had supposedly left behind sooty human footprints.
Was there a mix here? Was there both good and deceptive phenomena, as often occurs? Or was it an attempt at scaring away the seer, a preemptory strike against the apparitions?
Calling herself the mediatrix of grace, Mary imparted the gentle words, "Pray, my child. The people do not heed my words. Tell my daughters that there will be persecutions, unrest, and bloodshed in your country. The enemy of the Church will try to destroy the faith which Jesus established and died for. The Church will suffer much. Pray for the conversion of sinners throughout the world. Pray for those who rejected me and those who do no believe and trust me. Spread the meaning of the Rosary, because this will be the instrument for peace throughout the world. Tell the people that the Rosary must be said with devotion. Propagate the devotion of my Immaculate Heart. Do penance for priests and nuns. But be not afraid, for the love of my Son will soften the hardest of hearts and my motherly love will be their strength to crush the enemies of God. What I ask here is the same I asked at Fatima."
There were secrets, but Teresita guarded them jealously for the next fifty years. She is now in her late seventies. "I'll tell you this much, one (of the secrets) is for China, not Russia," she once said to a journalist.
[We urge no involvement with any apparitions or other phenomena, including healers, without the preparation of fasting]
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